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Influenza (Flu) is a common ailment afflicting many in the winter months. What is influenza and what kind of natural remedies are out there? Influenza is a contagious respiratory viral sickness accompanied by a high fever and headaches, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, congestion, achy body, and/or fatigue. For those curious about Japanese natural remedies to fight the flu, here are few ingredients common to the local cuisine readily available at any supermarket in Japan to try at home.
Most of these ingredients contain much needed vitamins (A, B, & C) for fighting off influenza or a common cold. They also have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects that may also help ease the flu-like symptoms and aid in warding off other illnesses that may follow as a result of the flu. Consuming the following foods on a regular basis are said to could help your body build resistance and accelerate the fight against influenza.
1. Fresh Ginger – 生姜（しょうが）
”Shouga” or ginger is an all-purpose, all-star natural remedy. Helping to keep your body warm and increase metabolism to boost your body’s energy to fight off the flu or cold. It also has anti-bacterial and –viral components. Grind some ginger and drink with your tea (生姜湯Shouga-yu) or in your dishes.
2. Kumquats – 金柑（きんかん）
”Kinkan” or kumquat is a small orange citrus fruit native to Asia. The kinkan found in Japan are usually slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball. This fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. You can find cooked kinkan prepared like jam with the fruit kept whole or sold as cough drops in the candy isle. Kinkan is a natural cough suppressant and also relieves sore throats.
3. Lotus Root – 蓮根（れんこん）
”Renkon” or lotus root is a distinct root with patterned holes inside and a crisp texture. Renkon is usually cooked with other vegetables like Japanese nimono (煮物 ) dishes or stir-fried on its own and flavored with sesame oil, soy sauce and red pepper as kinpira (きんぴら). Renkon is also great for relieving sore throats and coughs.
4. Shiitake Mushrooms – 干し椎茸（ほししいたけ）
”Hoshi-Shiitake” or dried shiitake contain various nutrients that support your immune system to fight off influenza and help to ease sore throats and coughing. Soak the mushroom in water before use. Don’t throw the water away as it can be used to make a healthy broth for your udon noodles, rice-porridge or other dishes.
5. Leek – ねぎ
“Negi” as in leek rather than spring onion, aids in relieving sore throats and helps rid you of phlegm. It contains surprising amounts of vitamin C and dietary fibers. Grill the white stalk and it will become very sweet and easy to consume. You can also use it raw as a garnish in your noodles and soups.
6. Daikon Radish – 大根（だいこん）
”Daikon” or daikon radish is also an anti-inflammatory aiding in sore throats and helps digestion. It is common for daikon cubes to be marinated in honey and eaten like pickles or use the honey to make tea.
7. Konbu (Kelp) – 昆布（こんぶ）
Cooked ”konbu” (kelp) has a thick consistency that helps to clear phlegm, provides minerals to your body as well as supporting digestion by allowing the body to absorb more nutrients. You may have seen cooked konbu in supermarkets that is rolled and tied with dried Daikon strings. It is also used to make broth. Konbu-cha (昆布茶) comes in powder form and is easy to drink like tea or can be used as a soup broth.
8. Shiso (Perilla) – しそ
”Shisho”, known as perilla and sometimes called Japanese basil, is a green shaded-shaped leaf with a fresh scent. It is commonly used as a garnish with sashimi. It has anti-bacterial and pain-relieving components helping with throat pains. You can simmer it to make tea or eat it raw.
9. Mikan (Mandarin Orange) – みかん
Fresh “mikan” or mandarin oranges are easiest to obtain in supermarkets from around September through January. There is more vitamin C in mikan than in a lemon. By eating the whole fruit you take in much needed dietary fiber, fluid, and other vitamins. It is important to consume the white strings that surround the actual fruit as they contain most of the nutrients.
10. Green Tea – 番茶（ばんちゃ）
“Bancha” is a green tea commonly sold in supermarkets. It helps to heat up your body and aids in digestion. For an added boost, drop in an “umeboshi” (salted plum – 梅干し) for its anti-bacterial effects.
When you come down with a cold or Influenza it is most important to keep your body warm, stay hydrated, consume easily digestible foods, and get plenty of sleep.
Most of these foods listed above can be combined to make soup, rice-porridge, or udon noodles. Do not forget to consume protein as well – so add an egg or tofu to your meal.
Next time you are in the supermarket, take a look at the deli section to see how these ingredients are being used in Japanese cuisine. Give these Japanese natural remedies to fight the flu a try.